There are several market opportunities for U.S. companies in airport security, aircraft and other aviation support equipment and aviation infrastructure development. Depending on the year, aviation can account for over 70% of U.S. exports to Ethiopia. During the past decade, Ethiopian Airlines Group (EAG) has registered average revenue growth of 20% per year, partly due to EAG’s expansion of cargo transport operations. This growth is expected to create further opportunities in aircraft, aviation support equipment, aviation infrastructure development, airport security, and other airport services. EAG now serves over 120 destinations in more than 70 countries and operates the largest number of aircraft in Africa. In the U.S., EAG operates direct flights to Washington, DC; New York City; Chicago; Houston; and as of 2023, Atlanta.
EAG has been following an aggressive strategic plan, called Vision 2035. Under Vision 2035, EAG seeks to double its fleet numbers from 140 to 271, increase the number of international destinations to 207, carry more than 65 million passengers and 3 million metric tons of cargo, and generate $25 billion in revenue by 2035. In July 2023, EAG issued an RFP to procure 115 commercial aircraft at an estimated $40 billion, with primary competitors expected to be Boeing, which currently supplies a majority of EAG’s fleet, and Airbus. Ethiopian Airlines is also expanding its footprint across Africa through current and planned strategic partnerships with carriers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Mozambique, Togo, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, and Nigeria.
EAG has invested $100 million for the first phase of a new cargo terminal that will increase its cargo carrying capacity to 1 million tons, for both dry and perishable goods. In addition, it recently invested €10 million to form a joint venture with DHL Global forwarding called DHL-Ethiopian Airlines Logistics Service. EAG’s operations extend beyond aircraft, investing $100 million in an aviation academy, making it the largest and most advanced academy of this type in Africa with a capacity to train 4,000 pilots, aircraft mechanics and technicians, cabin crew, ticket agents, and administrators.
In addition, EAG subsidiary Ethiopian Airports Enterprise (EAE) owns and operates over 20 airports throughout the country. In 2019, EAE carried out a $345 million expansion of Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport that tripled its capacity from seven million passengers per year to 21 million. Additionally, EAE also plans to build a major airport outside of Addis Ababa with a capacity of 100 million passengers per year at a cost estimated at $5 billion. This new airport would be built at a lower elevation, reducing jet fuel consumption, and enabling flights of a greater distance. Aéroports de Paris Ingénierie (ADPI), a French airport engineering and design firm, completed a feasibility study for EAE, which included identifying the project site in Bishoftu, 50 kilometers from Addis Ababa. CS Ethiopia has been told that the land for this project is expected to be secured by the end of 2023. Once this step is complete, EAG will issue a request for proposal (RFP) in early 2024 for the design, supervision, and project management of the new airport. International bidders are welcome and highly encouraged to seek outside project financing. The new airport is planned to be constructed in three phases, with the first phase, which will include two terminals, expected to be completed by 2028.
With a planned passenger capacity five times greater than present, this project represents a massive opportunity for companies in a wide range of fields, including project design and management, heavy machinery supply, passenger rail, aviation ground equipment, baggage handling and cargo/passenger security systems, and a host of ancillary air passenger services including franchise and retail. EAG is open to operating and ownership models for the new airport, including build, operate and transfer (BOT) and public private partnership (PPP). Regardless of the operating and ownership model, a successful bidder will be expected to offer financing options.
Beyond EAG, opportunities exist among small private airways that operate aircraft carrying fewer than 50 passengers. These private airlines usually provide domestic flight services—mostly chartered—to remote locations for the diplomatic community, private entities, and humanitarian non-governmental organizations.
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(total market size = (total local production + imports) - exports)
- Aircraft and engine sales and leasing—both to EAL and smaller charter airlines, replacement parts, airport equipment, including transportation security technologyFlight and cargo management information systemsAirport infrastructure design, supervision and development and airport safety and security systemsAirports commercial development and modernization projects; andServices associated with the potential partial privatization of EAL, such as valuation, issuance, and other advisory services.
EAE has carried out a feasibility study and location reviews for the planned Bishoftu airport project. Tenders for design and construction of the new major airport are anticipated in the next year, representing opportunities for U.S. infrastructure firms. Additionally, the new airport will need equipment, machinery, and structures related to indoor and outdoor facilities, including baggage handling, shopping centers, a new cargo terminal, and parking. Planned investments in other domestic airports will also require communication, safety, and security equipment in coming years. EAE requires ICT infrastructure and a commercial development plan, which should pave the way for U.S. companies to bid on upcoming tenders.